Shadow (Babylon 5)

Shadow (Babylon 5)

The Shadows are an ancient alien species in the science fiction television series "Babylon 5". Their homeworld is Z'ha'dum. In contrast to the Vorlons, whose philosophy is represented by the question "Who are you?" that of the Shadows is represented by the question "What do you want?" centering towards desire rather than identity. J. Michael Straczynski, the show's creator, once explained that he chose the name "Shadows" because of its meaning in Jungian psychology. [ [ Guide page: "Signs and Portents" ] ]


A Shadow is an insect-like organism with a spiky, violet-black carapace. They are similar in shape to a praying mantis with an upper body, shoulder spines, a mobile head and at least one pair of grasping forelimbs. The rear of the body is supported by multiple pairs of legs.

The Shadows have fourteen eyes in total divided into four groups. Two sets of three arranged, slanted upward and two sets of four arranged to align perfectly under the first sets.

The spoken language of the Shadows is a rapid series of high-frequency bursts and chirps like a cricket or grasshopper. The endonym of the Shadows is ten thousand letters long, and unpronounceable by many.

Detailed descriptions are rare, due to their ability to "cloak" their physical bodies to visual wavelengths of light. They are thus rarely seen except as shadowy, mirage-like silhouettes, which can be seen by telepaths, those using visual enhancement devices, or when the entity chooses to partially or wholly reveal itself.

Other manifestations take the form of the Shadows' three pairs of glowing orange eyes, usually as a symbolic image within a telepathic or dream vision.

Despite their frightening appearance, the Shadows very rarely engage hand-to-hand combat to accomplish their goals, relying instead on invisibility, behind-the-scenes maneuvering and the power of their technology. They are, however, vulnerable to conventional weaponry, as demonstrated when two Shadow guards flanking Mr. Morden are killed by particle gun fire from Centauri guards.


::"Z'ha'dum is the homeworld of the Shadows. No one leaves the same as they arrived." --Delenn::"If you go to Z'ha'dum, you will die." — Kosh to John Sheridan

In the fictional "Babylon 5" universe, Z'ha'dum was a world extremely important to the ancient, mysterious species known as the Shadows. Although a blasted, devastated world from which the Shadows were frequently driven over the eons, they kept coming back out of respect for Lorien—the first of the First Ones—who for a long time resided on the planet.

Because of their periodic presence on Z'ha'dum, the planet is often assumed to be the Shadows' homeworld, but it is unknown whether the species actually originated there, or if its importance to them is centered strictly on Lorien. Before undergoing her fundamental genetic change to become more human, Delenn confirms with Kosh that the Shadows have returned to Z'ha'dum, implying that the species is based elsewhere when not actively preparing to launch one of their periodic wars. There appears to be more than one place of power for the Shadows and their minions. According to Markab Ambassador Fashar: "When the darkness was defeated long ago, they scattered, hid themselves away in secret places."

According to Anna Sheridan in "Z'ha'dum", the Shadows believed they would die if anything Vorlon touched Z'ha'dum. It is not known whether this is true or merely an old superstition. Many of them did die when Sheridan arrived with a piece of Kosh and detonated a pair of nuclear warheads that he had secretly smuggled onto the White Star (partially based on Vorlon technology) in a kamikaze attack. And Lyta's telepathy, enhanced by the Vorlons (and, indeed, genetically seeded by the Vorlons in the first place) later triggered the destruction of Z'ha'dum itself.


Before recorded history

On the TV series, the Shadows are presumed to have evolved from arachnoid creatures. Little is known about what the Shadows evolutionary history was like.

As was stated in the Technomage Book Trilogy the shadows and Vorlons are both creature of light although the shadows prefer a more down to earth appearance as opposed to the vorlons that are due to generations of genetic tampering perceived as angels depending on the race that watches them.

Some records indicate that the Shadows first achieved Hyperspace capability as far back as 100 mya, maybe earlier. Around this time the Shadows also became a major galactic power, exploring the universe and making contact with alien races. The first of these races was that of the being Lorien, who was the first of the First Ones.

The Shadows waged many wars with other ancient powers, including the Vorlons, Walkers and many more. The reasons for these wars are unknown, but some theorize the Shadows attacked out of fear of the telepathic talents of their enemies. In these wars the Shadows were defeated, but never destroyed. Retreating to Z'ha'dum, the Shadows went into hibernation for 1000 years before reemerging a more powerful and learned force. It is believed that this cycle of defeat and adaptation laid the basis for the Shadows' ideology of "facilitated survival of the fittest," which they would later enforce on the younger races.

10,000 years ago

Millions of years later, many younger races had begun to evolve on thousands of worlds and the First Ones realized that in order for these new sentients to succeed, the ancient races would have to move on. Thus many of the First Ones moved beyond the Galactic Rim, to explore the vast emptiness between galaxies and perhaps explore the numerous other galaxies throughout the universe. Several of the First Ones decided to stay behind and shepherd the younger races until they were fit to control their own destiny. The primary caretakers were the Vorlons and surprisingly enough, the Shadows.

At first there was a balance between the two sides. One of the two then broke the agreement. Which is unknown. The Shadows claim the Vorlons broke the balance when they began tinkering with races on a genetic level, in an effort to make the younger races evolve more like them; which the Vorlons did, in fact, do. Though, as previously alluded to, it is not known whether this was the first act. Among these genetic dabblings, the Vorlons manipulated the younger races to see them as angelic creatures, using their telepathic abilities to shield their true form from the beings they manipulated.

The Shadows and the Vorlons began to fight amongst themselves, and those who tried to mediate, like the Walkers of Sigma 957, left the conflict embittered.

Over the course of the centuries that passed, the wars between the Shadows and Vorlons persisted. Then at some unknown point in time they decided to have their students fight for them, in an effort to prove who was right. This led to the last Shadow War before the time in which the Babylon 5 television series was set.

Circa 1260

Around the Earth year 1260, the penultimate Shadow War raged between the Shadows and the combined forces of the Vorlons, Minbari, and various other younger races allied with the Vorlons. The primitive and agrarian Narn homeworld was occupied by the Shadows, and the planet became a Shadow staging area. The Shadows had no interest in the Narn themselves at that time.

Somehow, Narn telepaths learned that they could hurt the Shadows' ships, and may have begun guerilla operations against the Shadows. Through an unknown mechanism the Shadows slew all Narn telepaths of breeding age in order to prevent the Narn from resisting the Shadows, but the surviving telepaths, led by G'Quan, were still able to drive the Shadows from the planet.

Realising the war was lost, the Shadows seeded hundreds of worlds across the galaxy with their ships so their forces couldn't be wiped out in a single attack, as even the Vorlons could never find them all. They then retreated and hid themselves away, going into a state of hibernation.

Year 2259

In 2259, there were increasing reports of a black, spidery ship being encountered in hyperspace, which instilled a dark fear in all who looked upon it. Meanwhile, Narn ambassador G'Kar realized that these ships were those described in the ancient writings of the Narn philosopher G'Quan, which told of a great enemy that rose to power a thousand years in the past. Known as the Shadows, they spread from their homeworld Z'ha'dum to rival the stars themselves:

::"And the Spirit of Darkness moved upon the land. It screamed in the dreams of the Mindwalkers; and they fell, destroyed by it to their children and their children's children. Then did the Darkness come to Narn until it was driven out by G'Quan and the last of the surviving Mindwalkers."

The text is accompanied by pictures of the black ship, and ends on a chilling note:

::"There is a darkness greater than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this foe we can never surrender."

Year 2260

In late 2260, Captain John Sheridan was invited to Z'ha'dum for a meeting with the Shadows. The Shadows badly wanted to have Sheridan on their side because if he unravelled the Army of Light, it would stay unravelled, but, as past experience had showed them, if they killed him, someone else would simply take his place.

Sheridan did go to Z'ha'dum but the negotiations collapsed, and he jumped into a ravine two miles deep to evade capture once his suspicion that he had been led into a trap was confirmed.

Before doing so, he remotely piloted his ship, the "White Star", to crash into the Shadows' capital city, which he was visiting. The "White Star" was carrying two nuclear bombs in its cargo bay, each with a yield of over 500 megatons. (The strongest nuclear bomb to be detonated as of 2008 was the Tsar Bomba, which had a yield of 50 megatons.)

Seconds after Sheridan jumped into the abyss, the "White Star" crashed into the city and the nuclear weapons it contained detonated. Both the "White Star" and the city were destroyed. The crater left from the blast was the size of a large Earth country and was clearly visible from space.

Year 2261

The explosion on Z'ha'dum destroyed the Shadows' biggest city, throwing them into chaos and forcing them to regroup. They then went to seek outside help, and enlisted the Centauri to shelter a fleet of their ships on Centauri Prime.

At the Battle of Coriana 6, the second Shadow War ended, and the Shadows passed beyond the Galactic Rim. Nonetheless, their servants, the Drakh, stayed behind, and retained the advanced technology and aggressive philosophy of the Shadows.

Sheridan, along with Alfred Bester and Lyta Alexander, went back to Z'ha'dum in early 2261 in search of some of this technology. This triggered a self-destruct security feature that caused the entire planet to explode, leaving nothing behind — except for what the Drakh took with them in their quick exodus from the planet.

The Drakh aren't the only race who worked for the Shadows, but neither the surgeons and pilot in "Ship of Tears" nor the creature in "The Long Dark" were seen to be helping with the evacuation, though of course the Drakh might have been the only Shadow servants to have been living on Z'ha'dum at that time.

With the destruction of Z'ha'dum, those beings that had faithfully served the Shadows down through the centuries found themselves homeless. Now these thralls sought to become masters of chaos themselves. Thus, the legacy of the Shadows lived on.

Alliances and agents

*See Drakh
*See Centauri Republic
*See Londo Mollari
*See Mr. Morden


Every Shadow ship has a sentient being enslaved as its central processing unit (CPU). This gives it incredible control and maneuverability, but leaves the ship vulnerable to telepathic attack, which the Shadows attempt to counter by installing telepaths into their ships' cores.Unlike conventional ships, Shadow vessels do not form "Jump Points" to enter Hyperspace. Instead they slide or phase into Hyperspace.

Agents of Gaming RPG books make mention that the Shadows a long time ago actually piloted their own craft but gave up the practice perhaps due to their limited numbers. Instead they used members of the younger races as cannon fodder, and made it possible for their warships to be bred more quickly.

One Man Fighters

Current records on the Shadow fighter indicate that the ships, like Shadow capital ships, can both cloak and phase into Hyperspace, making them the smallest vessels ever seen to have Jump capability.

Shadow one-man fighters have more than enough firepower to dispatch an entire conventional fighter squadron single-handedly. Like the Shadow warships, all technology in these fighters is organic, and most were piloted by minions of the Shadows. They are launched from mother ships in large spiky balls which split apart.

Capital ship

Shadow capital ships, also known as battle crabs, were the standard warships of the Shadows. These powerful vessels, while all similar in design, appeared to be varied in size and power. It has been documented that the Shadow beam weapon could literally slice a small planetoid into shards. This weapon was theoretically powerful enough to turn the entire surface of a planet into wasteland when used on continuous fire. Shadow ships could also fire a type of tractor beam and a burst weapon capable of destroying enemy jump points by making them collapse and destabilize. Once locked onto a target, a Shadow vessel would follow that target until it had destroyed it.

Shadow capital ships were also equipped with a cloaking device that made use of hyperspace technology. Essentially, Shadow vessels cloaked by phasing somewhere between real space and first level Hyperspace. A Shadow capital ship would be virtually invulnerable to attack in real space or hyperspace when cloaked. It was not vulnerable until it fully entered either dimensional plane. This cloaking system was apparently susceptible to large graviton shifts. Current documentation indicates that some of these vessels could carry up to forty one-man fighters.

hadow Scout Ship

Fast, maneuverable and very well armed, this class vessel was one of the last warships in the Shadows' arsenal to be seen. This heavy assault fighter/scout ship is about 2/3 the size of a White Star vessel and was armed with a powerful energy burst weapon that was much more powerful than the energy cannons used by Shadow fighters. They usually did not break radio silence until they had something to report.

hadow Planet Killer

One of the most terrifying weapons seen by the eyes of man was the Shadow Planet Killer or Death Cloud. The Shadow Death Cloud consisted of several layers. The outer layer of the Shadow planet killer was its trademark black cloud that completely obscured the mechanism's inner workings.

The inner workings of the Death Cloud appear to be a larger, web-like construct which started out in a compacted form and was then able to expand to encompass an entire planet. Once a planet was locked within the grip of the Death Cloud, the mechanism's offensive systems went to work. The cloud surrounding the mechanism prevented anything within the cloud from escaping, as it had exhibited a capability to depower starships, thus leaving them both defenseless and vulnerable to the missiles and various hand-shaped weapon turrets on the construct inside the cloud. The hand-shaped turrets had several "fingers" which could fire the infamous purple Shadow "slicing beams" individually. However, as seen in "A Call to Arms", these "fingers" could touch together and form a super slicing beam capable of wreaking havoc on powerful vessels like a Victory-class cruiser and, theoretically, even shielded Vorlon vessels.

Unlike the Vorlon Planet Killer, which used a massive energy bolt to obliterate a planet, the Shadows took a much more conservative approach to destroying a planet. The Death Cloud fired multi-gigaton missile-like projectiles at the target planet, which would burrow down through the planet's crust and detonate once they reached the planet's core. This literally turned a planet inside out, transforming it into a radioactive, molten wasteland. The rationale behind this was not one of efficiency, but rather the promotion of chaos and strife — while the Vorlon method is swift and deadly, thus exhibiting their "punishment" of races who have become "disobedient" to them, the Shadows preferred to prolong the fear and panic brought on by their rather imposing weapon, sowing more and more chaos with each passing minute. Also, by leaving the targeted world intact but defiled, the Shadows left testaments to their work for their enemies to see.

While in its molten form, the planet was stripped of any and all organic and useful inorganic materials by the planet killer, and this material was used to fuel the Death Cloud. Once a planet had been stripped of all useful materials, it was left as little more than a cold, dead boulder in space — all organic life, in any form, having been devoured with no chance of life ever springing up on that world again. This suggests that the Death cloud also acted as a portable factory, producing its own missiles en route to its next target, using the remains of its most recent victim.


The Shadows developed many other weapons of war, including deadly bioengineered viruses and an artificial intelligence pod capable of operating a vessel in lieu of a normal crew. These weapons were scavenged by the Drakh following the Shadows' departure from the galaxy. It is unknown what other horrors the Shadows may have left behind. The Shadows may also have created a special type of jumpgate called a Null field, which appears as a black hole and establishes an instantaneous connection between two points. They were also the creators of a bio-plague that used nanites to wipe out entire species.

The Shadows may also be the originator of technology that gives the Technomages their powers (making them cyborgs). It seems likely that the Technomages were developed to serve as some of the Shadows' many soldiers of darkness, against telepaths in the Vorlon army of light, but the Technomages learned of this and rebelled, though attempts were made on many occasions to draw them back into the ranks of the Shadows.

It is also interesting to note that the Vorlons were at least partially capable of creating their own version of Technomages, as exemplified by "Sebastian" the Inquisitor who had the capability to "conjure" many objects like manacles, shackles (for Sheridan), fire and light, teleportation, and many other "talents" not far from those exhibited by Technomages.

Also there is some debate over the eye of Z'ha'dum. The fact that it was shaped like the Shadows' eyes at first suggests that it was them telepathically projecting themselves. However the fact that they apparently left these devices behind proves that they were a machine of some kind. It appears to telepathically contact the minds of any ships crew, probing their minds and drawing them to the planet. It was this device that was tracking Ivanova during her journey in the Great Machine on Epsilon 3 in "Voices of Authority." The Eye also appears to be the Shadows' main defense system. That would explain why the White Star was able to get to the surface unharmed in "Z'ha'dum." It wasn't touched by the Eye because there was nobody on board for the Eye to influence.

For further information on the Shadows, Mongoose Publishing created an RPG book called "Darkness and Light" that talks about the Vorlons and Shadows. The now defunct Agents of Gaming RPG books also have information relating to the Shadows which is considered canon information.

Making of the Shadow ShipsThis is a rather horrible way to produce materials to build ships but the shadows used this method for most of their ships and devices, for example to create a shadow ship would require many lives due to the shadows using beings (of all sorts) as a way to produce their trademark shadow skins.

A being would be either lain on a table and subjected to a shadow treatment that would produce a device of some sort (depending on what the shadow treatment was designed to do). There was also evidence that they used small animals as surveillance pilots for some of their smaller devices but those was never seen except in skeletal form by Anna Sheridan while exploring Z'ha'dum.

The shadow skins for their ships was produced by building a large rack of sorts where they would put beings with shadow treatments and that would in turn combine into one huge sail of shadow skin which was then used for their ships.

The Technomages was also created by grafting shadow technology onto a living being (narn, centauri, human, minbari, any organic life form with intelligence would do). This technology would grow a second spine which would have a bell shape at the top which would be used by technomage initiates for training. This device was called a Crysalis and was worn as a helmet, after a 3 year period of training the would leave the crysalis phase and be initiated as technomages by receiving implants that give them the ability to scan, effect and in some cases use as a most deadly weapon.

The Membrane as it was described was a transparent sheet that covered an opening (either a door or a vent in one case) and when someone tried to pass through it the membrane would attempt to identify it as friend or foe, although the foe part was never revelead it did encase galen entirely so if a foe would be identified they would just suffocate while being encased or just held as another being used for production.

The shadows also produced egg like devices that was used to control entire ships (as mentioned above) also they created what was referred to as mice (by Anna Sheridan, these where used against a race called the J/Lai that had telepaths among them (thoughtseers they called them) and the shadows placed the mice in their community and if a telepath (thoughtseer) would interact with it , it would blow up and turn any telepath within a very large area into muttering buffons. Their thought patterns would be reduced to a mechanical thought pattern that caused them to repeat I am the machine.

This preluded the humans travel to Alpha Omega 3 (Z'hadum) mainly because the powers of the human race saw the potential of the technology and wanted to get it for themselves.


* [ The Lurker's Guide To Babylon 5: JMS Speaks] Guide page: "Signs and Portents"

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